Is Lebanon’s ‘social explosion’ coming?

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister has warned of an imminent social explosion if the current political and economic crisis persists. Tragically though, Hassan Diab’s statement is a gross understatement!

In reality, Lebanon no longer functions as a country. Its political and economic systems have both collapsed long before the catastrophic explosion in the main port last August, which killed more than 200 people and sparked the latest crisis.

“Lebanon is a few days away from the social explosion. The Lebanese are facing this dark fate alone,” Diab said in a speech at a meeting with ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions in Beirut on Monday. He submitted his government’s resignation shortly after the explosion. However, almost one year later, the ruling elite and the dominant parties have failed to agree to form a new government because of their petty quarrels over each party’s and religious sect’s share in the new cabinet.

The Lebanese people who took to the streets for weeks after the port tragedy demanded the departure of the entire political class that continues to rule over a failed state for the past 30 years and led to the present collapse. These parties are mostly led by former militia leaders — who fought against each other during the 1975-1990 civil war but bizarrely agreed later to share the spoils of war — mainly tight control of both the public institutions and the main sectors of business. For these corrupt politicians, the question is existential — they just can’t quit. And sadly, they don’t care less if society explodes like the caretaker prime minister predicts.

The situation in Lebanon would have led to a fundamental change in the system and those at its helm would have been held accountable if it were in a different country. However, the unholy alliance between corrupt party leaders, backed by the awesome arsenal of Iran backed Hezbollah has managed to mute all voices of dissent.

But the situation is getting out of hand with the currency having lost more than 90 per cent of its value. The World Bank last month described Lebanon’s economic crisis as one of the world’s three worst crises in the last 170 years. More than half of the population has descended into poverty.

Shortage of fuel led to long lines at the few gas stations that are open and recently to deadly fights. Power is being strictly rationed. Lebanese homes get less than four hours of electricity a day.

Diab has asked foreign donors and international financial institutions to step in and help his country. It is doubtful they will extend any more help. The problem is Lebanese, and the Lebanese people need to solve it. It is too late for the usual remedy. Lebanon needs real change and that change is in the hands of its people.

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